Grand Island is beginning fluoridation preparations.
Utilities Director Gary Mader is gathering estimates on what it will cost to install a needed fluoride storage tank, to prepare local fluoride pumps idled a decade ago and to operate the fluoridation system every year.
The Nebraska Legislature mandated that communities of more than 1,000 residents fluoridate drinking water supplies by June 1, 2010, unless a city opts out by public vote.
The Grand Island City Council could schedule such a vote or one could be requested through a petition.
Hall County Election Commissioner Dale Baker said 4,336 signatures — the equivalent of 15 percent of registered voters — would be needed to put the vote on the next regularly scheduled primary or general election ballot.
The primary is set for May 13, but ballots have already been prepared.
The deadline for getting an initiative on the Nov. 4 general election ballot is Sept. 2, Baker said.
If petitioners attempted to get a fluoridation repeal through a special election, a total of 5,782 — or 20 percent of registered voter signatures — would be needed, Baker said.
Grand Island’s water has 0.5 ppm (parts per million) of naturally-occurring fluoride, Mader said.
The last time the city added fluoride to the water was in 1997 — a practice that was stopped in May 1998 after 56 percent of voters objected.
Mader said 0.5 ppm of fluoride was added to make Grand Island’s fluoridation level at 1.0 ppm.
“One to 1.4 ppm is considered optimum,” Mader said.
The city had obtained an $18,000 state grant in 1997 to assist with the start-up equipment, which had a total purchase price of $40,000. Annual operations at the time were about $27,000.
Mader said Thursday he expects estimates for a current fluoridation system to be fairly close to the costs from 10 years ago.